Sir Ellice Victor Elias Sassoon papers and photographs
A Guide to the Collection
Sir Ellice Victor Elias Sassoon, Bart., G.B.E. was born December 30, 1881 in Naples, Italy while his family was en route to India. He was raised in England where he attended Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge University. He was from a Baghdadi Jewish family who had made their fortune in the cotton industry in India and still had substantial holdings there. Sir Victor served in the Royal Flying Corps in World War I. He survived a plane crash in 1916 and sustained leg injuries that plagued him the rest of his life. When his father died in 1924, Victor Sassoon inherited his title and became 3rd Baronet of Bombay. He moved to India, where he managed his family’s textile mills and served in the Indian Legislative Assembly.
In the 1920s and 1930s, he transferred much of his wealth from India to Shanghai, China and contributed to a real estate boom there by investing millions of dollars in the local economy. Sir Victor frequently traveled world-wide for business and pleasure and divided his time between the Poona, India Sassoon house, "Eves," and Shanghai. All Sir Victor’s houses were named "Eves," using his initials for the name. He acquired the Cathay Land Company and the Cathay Hotel Company and at least 50 other companies. Sassoon built the Cathay Hotel, now the Peace Hotel, in 1929, and other large hotels,office buildings and residences, many in the Bund district. At one time, he owned over 1,800 properties there. Sassoon endeavored to protect Western interests in the Orient and aid Jews in Shanghai.
Sir Victor loved photography,horse racing, Chinese ivories and international friendships and travel. He counted the aristocracy and such Hollywood stars as Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Basil Rathbone and Bette Davis among his acquaintances. An accomplished photographer, he made many images of friends, local and foreign landscapes and created numerous photograph albums. He also illustrated his diaries with his own photographs. Sassoon’s many thoroughbred horses won prestigious races in India and the U.K.
He lived in Shanghai until 1941, when due to China’s ongoing war with Japan, he was forced to leave. After the Communist Revolution of 1949, sold his business interests in China and relocated to Nassau, The Bahamas. In 1959, Sir Victor married Evelyn Barnes. He died in Nassau in 1961.
Lady Sassoon founded a charity in Sassoon’s honor to help Bahamian children with heart disease. She continued to provide support by hosting the black-tie Heart Ball every year on Valentine's Day weekend and the Sassoon Heart Foundation continues to this day.
"Continental society…."Life, August 29, 1938, 23.
Cover of Horse and Hound, June 14, 1958 with a picture of Sir Victor and his winning horse at the Epsom Derby.
"A Curry Named for Eve."Sports Illustrated, October 24, 1960, 74-75.
Jackson, Stanley. The Sassoons. London: Heinemann, 1968.
"The Shanghai Boom," p.31-40, 99-102, 104, 106, 109-112; and "Appendix I: Men of Shanghai," p.115-116; and "Appendix II: The Yanks in Shanghai," p. 118, 120; and "Appendix III: Extract from a Taipan’s Budget," p. 120, Fortune, vol. XI, no. 1, January, 1935.
"Sir Victor Sassoon Forsakes India for China,"Sunday Times, Perth, WA, Sunday, July 19, 1931.
"’twas St. Paddy’s Day."Sports Illustrated, June 13, 1960, 34-35.
The Sir Ellice Victor Elias Sassoon, Bart., G.B.E. collection consists of 35 diaries, one box of manuscripts, and 15 photograph albums. It is organized into two series: 1) diaries and manuscripts and 2) photograph albums.
The diaries, dating from 1927 to 1961, document Sir Victor’s social life, travel and many contacts. He illustrated the diaries with his own snapshots and made brief annotations for the images. Names of friends and acquaintances are often noted under the snapshots as well as negative numbers also found under prints in the photograph albums.The diaries include factual notations about what Sir Victor did, when, where and with whom. The correspondence includes letters from Sir Victor to his sister-in-law, Princess Guilia Ottoboni that are illustrated with Sassoon’s photographs. Various friends and such notables as the Aga Kahn are mentioned.
The photograph albums contain pictures of local scenes in Shanghai, Sir Victor’s house, "Eves" (both the house in Poona, India and the house in Shanghai were named "Eves") soft-focus portraits of his many acquaintances including Hollywood stars and travel around the world. Portraits are not identified; however, most have negative numbers written under the images that could be linked to the numbers and names under snapshots in the diaries. The albums are stored in oversize boxes.
Access to Collection:
Collection is open for research use.
Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.
Sir Ellice Victor Elias Sassoon, Bart., G.B.E. papers and photographs, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University
Gift, Evelyn Barnes Cox and R.E. Barnes, 2011.
The Sassoon diaries were organized chronologically by date beginning in 1927 to 1961. Because some of the snapshots had come unglued from the pages, each diary was put in a separate three-sided folder. Correspondence was arranged by date. The photograph albums were grouped by year with two or three albums per box.
Anne E. Peterson and Irina Bogdanova, 2011.
Anne E. Peterson assisted by Irina Bogdanova, 2012.
Ada Negraru, 2012.
Detailed Description of the Collection